ON THE RISE: 23 Questions with Ryan Hall
Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Ryan Hall is a diligent and ambitious singer, songwriter, and producer based in the state of Georgia. At just the age of 18, Ryan has managed to create his own unique genre-blending sound within his first two EPs while taking much inspiration from artists such as Jeremy Zucker, EDEN, and brakence. On December 26th, 2020, Harmony World had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan to discuss his musical inspirations, the meaning behind his lyrics, and more.
HWM: Who is Ryan Hall? Give us three words to describe yourself. What do you like to do for fun besides making music?
Ryan: I would call myself creative, obviously. I take a lot of pride in being as creative as I can. I wanna say I’m outgoing too, and I’m very very passionate. I do graphic design. I design all of my stuff for my Instagram and all that. I also have a band, Dart, for which I play drums. It’s like alt-rock stuff. You can check ‘em out on Instagram, it’s @dart.band. I do a little bit of photography every now and then. I have plants. I play piano. I have a ukulele. I have a singing bowl. That’s pretty much it.
HWM: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d want to be? Is there another career path that you’ve ever wanted to pursue?
Ryan: Well, graphic design is a huge one because I’ve been designing since I was thirteen, and it’s pretty much been my passion for the longest time. Up until a couple months ago, I was like, I wanna get a degree in graphic design and live out my life as a freelance hipster graphic designer. That was my original goal before I really started getting involved with music. If I can’t make a sustainable career out of music, I might go the graphic design route. Right now I wanna say I’m at a fork in the road. I could either go graphic design or I could go music. Or I could do both somehow, I don’t know. It’s mostly up to what I wanna do, my decisions, and how far music can go within the next couple months for me.
HWM: If you had the chance to collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Ryan: Dude, there’s so many! I would literally die to work with Jeremy Zucker. I would die to work with brakence. EDEN is an obvious one.
HWM: If you had to open a show for another artist, who would it be?
Ryan: If I were to open a show for someone and have it be the exact same audience as that artist, it would have to be Jeremy Zucker or EDEN. Those are my main two, I think.
HWM: What’s your go to driving song? Or playlist? Or artist?
Ryan: I don’t have a specific playlist that I listen to when I drive. Pretty much all my playlists are just stuff that I want to listen to when I drive. But I have one playlist from a long time ago that I listened to every time I got in the car, and that was “it was the summer of ‘20.” It just has a bunch of jams like “Television / So Far So Good” by Rex Orange County. [Jacob Collier]’s in there, every brakence song ever, Brockhampton, Tyler, a little bit of Jaden Smith, and keshi.
HWM: What is, in your opinion, the best song that has ever been released?
Ryan: If I were to choose one song that’d be the greatest song ever recorded and released... probably “rosier” by brakence.
HWM: How did you first get into music?
Ryan: My dad got me a drum kit when I was seven, and I would not stop playing it. I swear I woke [my parents] up on so many occasions just by being up late, and they were asleep, and I would just get on the drum kit. I didn’t know what I was doing, obviously. But over time I started playing lessons, and I really began to get a knack for rhythm and musicality and that kind of stuff. In the very beginning, I was just super intrigued by how these things made sounds, and how everything worked. Those were toddler thoughts, but now I feel like I’ve grown a lot more and I understand how all of it works. I was just intrigued by everything. On top of that I think it’s probably a genetic thing because music runs in the family, at least on my dad’s side.
HWM: What genre or blend of genres would you describe your music as?
Ryan: See, I don’t know if I want to answer that question because I don’t want to describe my music as a specific genre. I feel like with all the different kinds of music that’s being released, genre barriers are breaking down. There’s not as much distinction from one genre to another. But if I had to clarify it as a certain genre, I’d probably say like alternative indie pop because I take inspiration from so many different places. One day I’ll wanna write something like Brent Faiyaz. One day I’ll wanna write something like brakence. One day I’ll be like, Rex Orange County is a huge inspiration. But I can’t say it’s a specific genre just because it’s me, it’s what feels honest towards me and I’m not trying to copy anyone else obviously. I’m not trying to sound like anybody else. I’m not trying to sound like a specific genre. I just wanna be me, and I think that’s all any artist really needs to be.
HWM: How long does it take you to write a song? What is your creative process?
Ryan: On average? Okay, the shortest I’ve ever written a song... I wrote “hypothesis” in one morning, a week before “give me peace,” my first EP, was supposed to drop. I originally only had four songs on the EP, and I just wrote that one last minute because I thought it sounded cool. The longest I’ve ever taken on a song is “HOME” and that took three months total, from writing to producing to mixing, etcetera. So on average, I wanna say, probably like two or three weeks to completely write and flesh out and produce a song. But a lot of the time it’ll take longer.
HWM: At what age did you start writing songs?
Ryan: See, that’s complicated because I have so many different rough demos from when I was younger and I really wanted to start writing stuff, but I had no idea what I was doing. No idea. I’d never written a song before, so I have tons of demos in my phone of just terrible songwriting. There’s this one song I wrote last year called “Falling Down.” Never released it. Don’t think I’ll ever release it because it was absolutely atrocious. I was copying Billie Eilish. I wanted to sound like an edgy, sad teenager. It didn’t really work out that well, which is where I think the whole theme of honesty comes back, and where you really wanna be the most honest version of yourself when you’re creating music. But to answer your question, at what age did I start writing songs? Seventeen. “NO TEARS” was really the first song that I put a lot of effort in to try and make it sound good, and I just kinda started building from there. I have a couple friends who actually tell me “NO TEARS” is their favorite song, and I’m like, whatever, it was my first song. But it was such a landmark of a moment for me as a songwriter because it’s when I started actually taking things seriously. The thing is, it’s because of quarantine. COVID was the reason I started making music because I didn’t have anything to do. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I was like, okay, why not start making some random stuff? And eventually I came up with this riff for “NO TEARS” and it started fleshing out more and more, and I was like, this can be an actual song. And then by the end of it I was like, holy crap. This is amazing. In many ways, I think COVID has been a blessing and a curse. I really got into meditation, and I’ve been meditating every single morning. I try to go for a minimum of ten minutes a day and just observe my thoughts and that kind of stuff. And it’s so helpful. If you don’t meditate, I recommend it so much because I would not be in this state of mental well-being, especially in a pandemic.
HWM: Where do you get inspiration for your songs? This could be artists (although you’ve kind of already talked about that), but this could also be lyrically.
Ryan: So many different places. A lot of my lyrical content isn’t even about me. It’s about either friends’ experiences or just random stuff I have on my mind. Like, for example, take the whole narrative of “CANDY CORN,” which I want to leave to interpretation but obviously, “DRUNK DRIVING” in the outro is about someone crashing and dying while they’re drunk driving. That’s never happened to me. That’s never happened to any of my friends. I just thought it’d be a cool thing to write about, and it’s a very touching story when you think about the larger scale of the whole EP. “30 MILES OVER” is about driving, “PARTY GIRL” is about going to a party, “HOME” is about coming back home, or rather the lack of a home, and then “DRUNK DRIVING” is like the finale where the guy is on FaceTime with the girl and trying to convince her to pull over, but she doesn’t care and she keeps driving because she is heartbroken and then she dies. There’s more to the story than that but it kinda shows how I was able to turn a couple of cool songs into an overarching chronological narrative that you can hear throughout the EP. The thing is, I didn’t think that much about a specific narrative when I was writing “CANDY CORN,” it just kind of fleshed out on its own. But by the end of the whole writing process of the EP, I was like, dang, I really wrote something crazy with it. A lot of it was just made-up characters in my head based off of past experiences with other people, based off of toxic manipulative ex-girlfriends, attachment issues, commitment issues. Everything that has happened in the past with my relationships, I’ve kind of formed into this sort of narrative with my music. That’s where most of the inspiration comes from, but a lot of it is also from other music. I hear something in a song or on the radio or in nature and I’m like, that would be a sick intro, bridge, chorus section, or whatever. I start the song with that and I just go from there. But there have been times where I’ve literally just sat down with my guitar and I play something and I’m like, wait a second. It’s like a lightbulb that comes into your head. I feel like beyond inspiration, there’s something greater that happens within our minds, within our souls, that conjures this kind of creativity within us. That’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from, just being as honest as possible with myself.
HWM: What is your production process like?
Ryan: It varies. Obviously, with some songs it’s as easy as pressing “record” on a voice memo, which is how I produced “hypothesis”. And then there are some songs like “HOME” where it’s a 200 track Logic session with crazy automation and, and crazy processing on everything. But the process… I start with something that inspires me, whether it be a riff or a chord progression or a melody that I hear in my head. And I build on it slowly. I try not to get ahead of myself a lot of the time. I try to capture the best elements of what inspires me without overdoing it. In the example of “NO TEARS,” I started with this guitar riff, and I wrote a harmony line on top of the guitar. It sounded cool and I was like, whoa. And then I started writing stuff to it. It was really just a matter of structuring all of the elements. Whatever feels right and whatever sounds the most honest with my ears. A lot of my philosophy with production is just building small elements on top of each other and creating larger sounds, and using those larger sounds in combination with other large sounds to create an even larger sound that creates a feeling that you can hear in your ears with a certain frequency and all that jazz. It’s really just trial and error for me. If you ask me that question in a year, I’ll probably be able to have a much more fleshed out answer, but because I’ve only been producing for 9-ish months, I don’t have a specific process that I go through whenever I do it. I just do whatever feels best.
HWM: Are you the type of musician to write lyrics first and then put it onto music and beats? Or do you create a beat first and then write music or lyrics for that beat? Or do you do both?
Ryan: A little bit of both, but lately it’s been a lot of creating an instrumental first and then putting the lyrics on top of that. But sometimes it can vary. A lot of the time it does vary. Like with some of the songs I’m working on right now, it just started with a riff. And then I’m like, oh, that would sound cool with these lyrics, that would sound cool with that melody.
HWM: Do you do all of your production yourself?
Ryan: Yes. I don’t have any collaborators, but sometimes I do send [my music] off to friends and I’m like, hey, what do you think of this? What can I change? So yes, most of it is done by my own, with my own ears, and a lot of the time that can be a good thing, and a lot of the time you definitely need someone else there to tell you if your idea is a bad idea or a good idea. I write everything, I record everything, and I produce it. I do everything up until the mixing and mastering phase, pretty much.
HWM: What’s your favorite song that you’ve ever released?
Ryan: “30 MILES OVER.” That’s my favorite song. It doesn’t get a lot of credit for how amazing it is production-wise, but it’s definitely my favorite right now, at least.
HWM: What’s the most sentimental or vulnerable song that you have put out or written?
Ryan: “hypothesis” because I think that’s the most honest I’ve ever been. Writing that song was like spewing out words onto a piece of paper and then it magically forming into something even more beautiful by itself without even me having to touch it. It was like a magical force had come over me and just said, “okay, you’re going to write this now.” That’s why I think there’s like a force above us, not religiously or anything like that, but spiritually, that kind of gives us this creative power. Writing “hypothesis” was like therapy for me. It was like everything I wanted to say to myself and all the people that I’ve loved, but I never had the guts to.
HWM: Where did the phrase “seasons change and so do we” come from? Why did you choose it to promote your EP?
Ryan: So “seasons change and so do we”... it just came into my head at some point. [It] kind of inspired me because it was how I was feeling as soon as the fall season was starting to roll around and I was getting to a point in my meditative practices where I was starting to recognize my emotions as not a part of me and starting to identify myself as my own kind of being without using labels like sad or happy to identify myself. With that said... I kind of have this philosophy that all emotions that we feel are never permanent, they’re just temporary, they’re always changing... exactly like the seasons. And it’s an overused metaphor, obviously, but, it fits the whole fall kind of vibe that the EP entails. “seasons change and so do we” is just kind of a metaphor for how we are as human beings. It just really really resonated with me. I try really hard to let my emotions come and go without judging them as something else. Feeling emotions is kind of like inviting a friend over to sleep over. You’re going to invite them over, they’re going to come, you’re going to say hi or whatever, you’re going to build a pillow fort or whatever, you guys are going to have fun for the night. And then you’re going to wake up the next morning, and they’re going to have to leave at some point. They can’t stay the entire night or the entire next day or the entire forever, whatever. They gotta leave at some point, and that’s exactly how I see my emotions. Ironically, near the end of the EP, I was starting to lose myself emotionally, and I was once again identifying myself with my emotions and wasn’t taking the time to be like, “I’m sad right now. It’ll get better. This is not over.” But I was just kind of feeling them without the knowledge that they would be gone soon. So with “seasons change and so do we,” I just want people to know that things will change no matter what. Change is always a factor, and you cannot get away from it, so don’t try to run away from it. Just feel your feelings for how they are in the moment and realize that they will be gone at some point.
HWM: There’s a lot of spoken dialogue in your music, specifically the sample from your song “HOME.” Why did you choose to include that?
Ryan: I just thought it was a cool beat switch. But it did have some meaning, because I feel like the sample itself was about staying on your feet and being able to hold yourself well. Uncle Iroh is telling this criminal, you don’t seem like the criminal type, and then the guy is just like, “I’m not cut out to be a criminal, I’m just confused” or whatever. That’s exactly how I was feeling at the time, and it kind of reflected like the fluctuating state of the song because “HOME” by itself is actually like a three-part song. There’s the intro with the piano and the vocals and everything, super cool. Then there’s the trappy, melodic, hip-hoppy section. And then there’s the very end where the beat switch happens. To me, they are like various stages of losing the person you call home, I guess. To answer your question about spoken word, there’s also some spoken word in “DRUNK DRIVING.” There are some parts in the song where I just hit record and I just spoke words that felt right for the specific moment. And that sounds cringey on its own, hitting record and just talking or whatever. But the little dialogues you hear in the background of “DRUNK DRIVING” are literally me reacting to everything, all the lyrics that I’m saying. I had the song finished, I had all the lyrics done without the dialogue in it or anything. I didn’t even know I was going to do a dialogue in it. I just hit record and did what felt right, which was basically just talking, and it worked. I panned it in different directions to make it seem like it was different people talking or whatever. But the dialogue itself, where it comes from is just impulse, I guess.
HWM: How did you feel when “PARTYGIRL” blew up on TikTok?
Ryan: Okay, so I didn’t really expect the EP to pop off as much as it did at all, or for me to even get any kind of TikTok recognition. TikTok is a really beneficial tool for artists and stuff like that, but I wasn’t a huge user of it until lately where I’ve kind of tried to go full-out with everything that I do. I kinda posted that TikTok of “PARTYGIRL” as a last minute resort before the EP was out. I was like, I know this EP probably isn’t gonna pop off, but just in case, I’ll go ahead and put this out there and see what happens. And the next morning I wake up and it has a thousand likes and I’m like, what? And throughout the day I just kept refreshing the notifications and I was like, what the hell is going on here? People are enjoying this! And then of course the next day came and it hit ten thousand. And now I think it’s forty thousand or something, which is absolutely insane. The most interesting part of it for me was watching the number crawl up to one thousand and two thousand and seeing all the individual people who were liking the video. These are all human beings with an entire story in their lives who decided to take the time out of their day to double-tap on my video and show that they enjoyed my song, or enjoyed me, or enjoyed what I was doing, and that just blew my mind. And immediately after that, I’ve been feeling impostor syndrome, but obviously, impostor syndrome comes with that kind of attention. It taught me a lesson about numbers, I think. There’s so much more to a follower count than the amount of people. I feel like it’s quality over quantity. It’s what people really see in you and your music that really matters to me, and I wanna show that as best as I can and not become some kind of celebrity that celebrates whenever I hit a hundred thousand on Instagram or when I hit fifty thousand on TikTok. Because I don’t wanna celebrate that as a milestone, I wanna celebrate people as a milestone. These are all individual people who have their own free will and can decide what they want to do, and it’s just so fascinating to watch that happen.
HWM: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would have done differently?
Ryan: Mix “PARTYGIRL” better. Honestly, “PARTYGIRL”... it’s not my least favorite, but I didn’t put as much effort into that song, and I definitely didn’t expect it to pop off at all. But also, I don’t think I would change much. I think I’m alright where I am right now.
HWM: What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?
Ryan: It’s hard. It’s really hard. There will be days where the music is amazing and you’re really proud of yourself, and there will be days right after where you will look at your music and you’ll be like, I hate this so much, I wanna throw it away, I don’t wanna do this anymore. But my advice is that being a musician will make you feel things that you’ve never felt before, and I want everyone who’s trying to become an artist to be prepared for that and understand that you don’t need to sound like anyone else. You don’t need to sound like any other artist than yourself. And I feel like the most important part of that is just to be as honest as possible with your music and show people who you truly are without any labels or judgment involved.
HWM: What is next for your music?
Ryan: Very, very, very personal music. Just expect me to be more vulnerable than I’ve ever been in any music. I can’t really say whether or not you’re gonna get a single next or whether or not you’re getting an EP or an album. I would love to do an album. I don’t know if I have the guts for it right now. But I’m exploring myself and my music, and everyone who’s reading right now, I think you will see that very clearly in what I’m putting out.
HWM: Is there anything you want to say that you haven’t mentioned yet?
Ryan: Be grateful. Whatever you got this year, or wherever you are, be as grateful as you can and take everything day by day, because it will get better and it will get worse again, and then it’ll get better and then it’ll get worse again, and it’s a never-ending cycle and you just gotta figure out how to live through it.
If you enjoyed reading through Ryan's interview, be sure to check out his most recent EP, "CANDY CORN" on all streaming platforms!